Person of the Week

Jenny MacReady

Small family business owner MacReady Artisan Bread Company, Door County, Wisconsin

I’ve fallen in love with the passion or spirituality of bread making.  This was after I graduated from law school.  The bakery offers a daily selection of homemade soups, sandwiches, desserts, and ice cream.  

1.  What led you to the mission of being a small family business owner of an artisan bread company?

I’ve fallen in love with the passion or spirituality of bread making.  This was after I graduated from law school in 2001.  All through law school and my career up until this past year, I did domestic violence work.  I started in the legal realm and worked my way up to be an executive director of a shelter system that  did work with battered women and homeless folks.  My specialty was doing expert witness testimony in severe domestic violence cases.

I liked feeling like I was making a difference.  I liked feeling part of a movement, but then I started feeling the world was a very dark place.  Part of it was because of a personal tragedy.  My husband, who is also my best friend, reminded me there is a world out there that doesn’t include violence.  I realized nobody gave me the responsibility – except me – of saving or thinking that I could save the world.

I was going home so emotionally exhausted that I didn’t have time to be the wife, daughter, or friend that I wanted to be.  My husband and I prayed a lot about it.  We talked to our family and decided to make a move.  We decided to be back with my father who had stage four cancer and near the place where the family tragedy occurred – where my grandmother was murdered.

My grandmother was from the Door County, Wisconsin area her whole life.  She was proud of what I did, but was worried about my heart.  She wondered, “Who is taking care of you, honey?”  The fact was that I wasn’t letting anybody take care of me.  I thought I could take care of myself and everyone else.  This wasn’t what everyone needed or wanted, but I put the weight of the world on my shoulders.  Part of it was I wanted to feel I was a good person and that I was productive in doing something for the world.

It took me a very long time – about twelve years in the work world – to realize that I can make a big difference in my small sphere of influence like my family or the people who love me and care about me.  It never occurred to me that this could be meaningful.  I left the agency and my husband and I came back to Egg Harbor in Door County Wisconsin to start this small business, MacReady Artisan Bread Company.

(The MacReady Artisan Bread Company features handcrafted artisan breads, gourmet accompaniments, including extra virgin olive oils muddled daily with fresh herbs as well as fresh sweet and savory Wisconsin butters.  The bakery also offers a daily selection of homemade soups, sandwiches, desserts, and ice cream.)

2.  What does this mission mean to you?

My husband and I create a product with our own hands and I work with and around my family.  The things we make are healthy.  People want them and are excited about them.  I work with people and connect with them just as much here as I could before when I was a director and a lawyer, but I don’t have the same power dynamic.  I love having a law degree.  I learned a lot and it makes me a better businesswoman, critical thinker, and speaker.  Even though I don’t want to be a lawyer and perhaps I never did, it was the right path to be on.

I don’t have to prove anything to anybody any more.  I’m not here to save anybody, but just to connect as a human being.  I feel that for the first time I can just be me – not me the executive director, not me who can help you out of a jam, not me who can give you legal advice – but just me.  I never knew that that could be enough.  It took some bumps in the road of my life to realize that being a good person with my family and the people I care about could be as rewarding or more rewarding than what I was doing before.

Our company is in Egg Harbor in Door County, Wisconsin.  I get to wake up every morning and go to work with my husband.  Everybody is happy to be here!  Everybody is here by choice.  It is very rare that people grow up in Door County and get “stuck” here.  People come here to escape from the rest of the world.  What I have found here is peace.  I’ve found home.

3.  What was your best day as a small family business owner of an artisan bread company?

The best day I can think of is when my dad started working for us just for fun.  We were really busy and had a staff of happy working people — including my dad.  I was watching him and he was so excited and proud and happy.  We aren’t a “restaurant” family!  My parents were both public school teachers.  (They loved what I was doing before, but they were worried about me.)  Now to watch Dad in his element in the family business, and to watch my husband in his element, and me in mine — made me see a synergy that I didn’t even know was possible.  I thought, “This IS a family business!” I don’t remember the exact date, but I have a vivid memory of working with my husband, my mom, and my dad and feeling like all was right with the world.

4.  What was your worst day as a small family business owner of an artisan bread company?

We haven’t had a bad day yet.  That’s a funny question for me now.  I can’t think of a bad day.  Not that I’m excited to wake up every morning – super early and start schlepping dough.  It’s a whole different feeling waking up – because we want to.  My other job I’d work long days and they felt like long days.  Here, it just feels like doing what we like, meeting people, and then I ask myself the question, “We get paid for this too?”  I haven’t had a worst day.

We have days when things happen – like the oven goes down or the dough hook breaks.  A couple of days ago, the hook broke and that’s an added expense.  That can be stressful but I’ve never had a day when my heart hurt or I was sad.

5.  How did you survive your worst day?

I can make it through those days because it’s not somebody being raped or battered or homeless.  It’s bread!  We love bread, but if it doesn’t get made that day, it will get made the next day.  I love that.  It’s not the bad day like I had before – a client getting murdered or something terrible happening.  The worse that can happen here is the dough hook breaks.  So what?  We get the afternoon off.  I think there will be harder days – like winter — but we are saving like little squirrels to make it through.

I wish I would have believed people when they told me that I don’t have to prove anything to anybody.  The only person that I have to answer to at the end of the day is me, my family, and our God.  I’m not here to save anybody, but just to connect as a human being.  I can make a difference in all sorts of ways like being a good daughter, friend, wife, and aunt.  I have a spark that has always been there and I’ve found it here just being myself.

22 Comments

  1. Wasn’t it awesome when Napoleon Dynamite did his dance routine to help Pedro win the election?

    Reply

  2. Jules Becker 10/15/12
    9:29 am

    I’m so happy for you and Mike, Jenny. I love your story and am so glad your path has led you back to family and happiness.

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  3. Great Aunt Barb 10/6/12
    8:28 pm

    Jenny and Mike, Having you here in Door County has been a blessing to all of us and your bread is delicious!

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  4. Great Aunt Barb 10/6/12
    8:24 pm

    Jenny and Mike, you have brought a blessing to Door County. Your joy is contagious and your bread is delicious!

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  5. Denise Bruce 09/30/12
    6:27 pm

    What a wonderful article, working in a ED, I know exactly what you mean. The world is often not beautiful or fair. I think you obviously made a wise decision. I wish you and your husband great success and thank your aunt for sending me this article

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  6. Ruth Carter 09/30/12
    2:06 pm

    This is a wonderful interview! So proud of you and Mike! I know how much it means to your Dad to be able to come to the shop every morning. The atmosphere in your place is warm and cozy, and the smells are devine! Can’t wait to see you and get somemore of that delicious bread!!

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  7. Barbara Sheets 09/29/12
    12:12 am

    I have never been to Door County Wisconsin but now I want to go. I think working with family and friends would be the best thing and how wonderful that you were able to realize this dream. Listening to your heart and following your intuition was key. This inspires me to remain open to possibilities in life and look for creative employment and ways to connect income with mission.
    Thanks for your positive example.

    Reply

  8. Maureen Jordan 09/27/12
    10:49 pm

    Your story was fascinating to read! What an internal journey you have traveled to get to a very nice place with those so close to you. You have a perspective about your business (no bad days) that few others have I am sure. Should I get to Door County, I will most definitely come by!

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  9. Patty Clark 09/26/12
    6:48 pm

    Wow. What a story. I think we were around in Door County on that day when the whole family was working – I wish I had been in the bakery for that! I do know that when we came in a few days later, I sensed the same intangible yet very present sense of welcoming, hospitality, and family love that I remember from my early childhood visits to the farm (and ever since!)

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  10. Jenny Tracy 09/26/12
    6:41 pm

    Jenny, what a gift you and Mike are to Door County. It is so obvious when we visited your bakery that you love what you do, and the bread reflects your passion! If we lived nearby we would be regular customers for sure. Thank you for sharing your story so transparently. You are wise beyond your years. Blessings, Jenny Blake Tracy

    Reply

  11. Jenny Tracy 09/26/12
    6:41 pm

    Jenny, what a gift you and Mike are to Door County. It is so obvious when we visited your bakery that you love what you do, and the bread reflects your passion! If we lived nearby we would be regular customers for sure. Thank you for sharing your story so transparently. You are wise beyond your years. Blessings, Jenny Blake Tracy

    Reply

  12. Kristy Clark 09/25/12
    9:18 am

    I visited your bakery for the first time this summer. It felt like I had found the heart of the universe and I couldn’t wait to go back the next day. Great ice cream, great sandwiches, wonderful atmosphere. You’re sharing home through what you do!

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  13. Denise Cline 09/25/12
    7:24 am

    From Two Patriots Farms, Port Huron Farmer’s Market. What a great article! I saw a spark in Jenny the first time I saw her slicing bread samples in the open air on the St. Clair River. Keep shining, girl!

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  14. Tracy Moore 09/25/12
    7:21 am

    Such a wonderful article! It was nice to get to hear a little about your thoughts and origins of the idea to open a bread shop. That idea of connecting with family, connecting with others, on a daily basis does make so much sense. (Delicious cherry bread, by the way! Thank you!)

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  15. Betsy Clark 09/24/12
    10:23 pm

    What a beautiful article, Jenny! I can now understand why you and Grandma Es were so close. We Clarks loved your eating your bread and watching you and Mike happily at work together–and look forward to more. Love, Aunt Betsy

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  16. Sally Miller 09/24/12
    9:38 pm

    Loved the article; loved the pictures; love the cheesy bread; love you. Sally

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  17. Lynn Miller 09/24/12
    8:57 pm

    Very nice article and very nice replies. Your bread and pies have been enjoyed by us. So happy for you to have happiness. Grandma is proud I sure. Lynn miller

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  18. Lynn Miller 09/24/12
    8:57 pm

    Very nice article and very nice replies. Your bread and pies have been enjoyed by us. So happy for you to have happiness. Grandma is proud I sure. Lynn miller

    Reply

  19. So happy for the both of you! Scott and I can’t wait to come visit!

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  20. Uncle Mike 09/24/12
    3:13 pm

    We are so happy and proud of you two. Just the thought of you guys and your store puts a smile on my face. Love Mike & Peg

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  21. A wonderful story! And we love the MacReady Bread.

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  22. How wonderful! Jenny, your story is so nourishing to read. Brava to you and your lovely family!

    Reply

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